Federal food stamps benefits cuts begin, which affects one-fifth of Kentuckians

11/01/2013 11:36 AM

Federal food assistance shrunk starting Friday back to pre-recession levels, affecting 875,000 Kentuckians who are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Benefits for a family of three will now average $1.40 per meal per person. The cuts are worth about $29 a month per family, according to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

Congress had increased food stamps benefits as part of the 2009 federal stimulus bill. But with the the program caught up in an ongoing stalemate over the farm bill, the benefit levels for food assistance reset to 2008 levels on Nov. 1.

In Kentucky 875,000 people are enrolled in the program which is nearly equal to the number of Kentuckians also drawing Medicaid. Here’s how the SNAP benefits break down:

• 343,000 children who live in households receiving SNAP;
• 207,000 elderly or people with disabilities;
• 28,100 military veterans

The program could have been temporarily shut down starting this month had Congress not come to a deal Oct. 16 to reopen the federal government after the 16-day shutdown.

But a long-term solution for the food stamps bill still eludes Congress. The Farm Bill is currently in a conference committee. The Republican-led House of Representatives recently passed legislation cutting $40 billion from SNAP.

That would potentially eliminate assistance for at least 88,000 Kentuckians and nearly 4 million nationwide, Jason Bailey, director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, said in an interview.

The Democratic-led Senate bill cuts $24 billion dollars in spending in agriculture programs by eliminating direct payment subsidies and cracking down on food assistance abuse.

Bailey provided Pure Politics with the breakdown of food assistance recipients by Congressional district:

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, has repeatedly voted against House bills that would reduce access to SNAP. However, twice in 2010 while Democrats controlled the House Yarmuth voted to sunset the expansion of benefits to provide billions towards schools to prevent layoffs as the recession carried on.

“Unfortunately, this isn’t the only threat to the food security of the more than 44,000 Louisville families — and 270,000 Kentucky families — who depend on this program, as House Republicans stripped nearly $40 billion from federal food assistance programs in the Farm Bill,” Yarmuth told Pure Politics.

Sixth District U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, was elected just a year-ago and didn’t have a say in the 2009 stimulus bill that expanded SNAP, but he has defended his vote earlier this year for the House approach that split the food stamps program from the farm bill.

“It is clear that we need to do more to combat the Obama Administration’s regulatory assault on Kentucky jobs that is preventing a full economic recovery, leaving too many Kentuckians to rely on food stamps,” Barr said Friday in a statement sent to Pure Politics. “Reducing the spending wasted on advertising and program mismanagement will help ensure assistance is there for Kentuckians who are truly in need.”

Republican Second District U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie told Pure Politics in Washington D.C. last week that SNAP was “vastly expanded” under the stimulus bill and he wants to get back to the “original intent of the program.”

“We need to reform and restructure the food stamp program to make sure the people who deserve em’ get em’ and the people – and when they get them they use them for the right reasons,” Guthrie said.


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.